The first thing I do upon waking is open the door and check the wind.
Good! Not too bad. This means I can set up my new Wilson antenna today. I read Mick’s handwritten instructions one more time. I can do this!
“C’mon, Poopies, we’re goin’ to town!”
We zip right over to the True Value Hardware Store.
“I’d like a 10 foot section of one and a half-inch PVC . . . schedule 80, if you have it,” I tell the lady at the register.
“We only have it in schedule 40.”
“How much is it?”
A few seconds at the computer and she replies, “$8.99.”
At that price I buy it.
If it isn’t satisfactory, I can always replace the pole later with the stronger PVC.
This True Value is the kind of store that has everything you could ever want packed into the smallest store space possible. I browse around and pick up a squeegie for the PTV’s windshield. I can’t reach all the way across to wash the windshield. What I’ve had to do for over a year now, is climb up on the front bumper, get on the hood, and windex the middle section. Unbecoming behavior for a lady, I’d say. Not to mention unsafe, what with my poor sense of balance.
I also buy two pieces of brown felt for $.39 each. The felt is for another project I’ll tell you about on another day, assuming I ever get around to tackling said project. Otherwise I’ll say nothing and hope no one mentions it.
I slide the 10 feet of PVC through the passenger window.
“Okay, we’re off to the Farmers’ Market.”
I drive to the center of town and see the market is in full swing in the park. I have no desire to stop. I want to get home and set up my new antenna!
The first thing I need to do is attach the bracket to the rear bumper.
Hmm . . . To the right of the spare tire isn’t good. It’ll block the water tank’s inlet door. I check the left side of the spare tire. Uh-oh. In order for the pole to clear the spare tire, it’ll be in front of the license plate. That’s not good either, not that it matters, I guess, but I don’t want it like that.
I get a screwdriver and move the license plate as far as it will go to the left. Voila! There’s just enough room for the pole!
After the bracket is secure, I attach the antenna to the top of the pole.
Following Mick’s instructions, I secure the cable to the pole with ties and insert the bottom of the pole into the bracket. I turn the big metal knob to hold it in place.
Next I feed the coax cable through the window and connect it to my air card.
The signal bars jump from two bars to three bars immediately!
Next is the fun part. I swivel the pole in small increments, each time checking the difference on my air card. Before I give you the results, I’ll get a little techie, okay? I’m happy to do this because it isn’t something I can do often.
First off, the letters dB stand for decibels, but you knew that already. RSSI stands for Received Signal Strength Indicator, pretty self-explanatory. The signal range we’re talking about is -30 dB (the best) to -110 dB (the worst). In other words, the closer to zero, the better. The RSSI and the number of decibels show up on the little window of my air card.
All set? Here we go.
I secure the pole by tightening the big knob. I run inside and read the air card: RSSI 55% with -86 dB. I run out and swivel the pole about fifteen degrees and get -96 dB, another swivel a few degrees further and it reads -98 dB. Looks like I’m turning in the wrong direction. We’re going further away from zero, and that’s not good, remember?
I swivel the pole back to the original place and then turn it about ten degrees more.
Now it’s an RSSI of 56% and -85 dB. Hmm … getting closer! I turn it some more . . . 63% and -80 dB. Turning further than that, the numbers do not improve. (That may be because the antenna doesn’t do as well when pointing over the roof.) I put it back at an RSSI of 63% and -80 dB.
That’s only 50 dB off from PERFECT SIGNAL out in the desert with big mountains on three sides of us with no towers on them!
I made one mistake when installing the antenna.
Mick thoughtfully sealed the coaxial cable to the antenna connector. His written instructions say to wrap a tie around it and the pole. I didn’t do that. I was too excited. That’s my excuse. I’ll put the tie on when I bring the pole down.
By the way, the antenna and pole go into the PTV when we are on the road.
During a lightning storm, I can slide it under the BLT. This is what Mick advised. I tell you, the guy thinks of everything. He also suggested a cap for the top of the pole. I’ll get one of those and some paint to cover the writing on the pole. Gotta’ keep things lookin’ spiffy! I love how the BLT looks like a little spaceship. Houston, we have lift-off!
This thing is so much fun!
I was afraid this antenna business would turn out to be a hassle, to tell the truth.
It’s easy to install and adjust.
You shoulda’ seen me! I’m turning the pole and running back into the BLT, checking the numbers, running out again… all the time going, “This is so much fun!”
P.S. Since writing this blog post, I found out something about the silver bracket with knob that’s attached to the bumper and holds the antenna pole. Mick MADE that thing! Take another look at it. Amazing!